As a collection of 13 wine-tasting rooms housed in metal buildings, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto offers a fun-filled day of sampling regional varieties such as pinot noir and chardonnay. Each winery crafts its own set of libations, and many are produced with grapes grown in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
Herds of wild horses and burros—about 400 in total—roam the 300-acre Return to Freedom sanctuary, where they're free to exhibit the natural behaviors and social structures they came to know in the wild. However, for many of the horses, it hasn't been an easy journey to their new home. Government roundups displaced these wild steeds from public lands, forcing many into auction, where they were sold off to the highest bidder. Their stories are harrowing, which is why Return to Freedom works tirelessly to help these wild horses resume their natural ways of life. Visitors of the sanctuary can observe these creatures on walking tours and safaris, getting up close and personal with the five herd families that traverse the lands.
Trail And Mountain's owner inherited a love for the outdoors from his father, an avid hunter. Though the son never cared for hunting, he has followed that passion for nature for the rest of his life, honing wilderness navigation skills by hiking landscapes from the Catskill Mountains to the hills of North Carolina. Today, he marries this experience with certifications in first aid in a quest to introduce others to California's wilderness. During single- or multiple-day excursions in Santa Barbara County and beyond, he helms tours and helps coordinate activities for tourists ranging from day hikes to whale watching to paragliding.
In 1968, bearing a degree in geography and a taste for fine wines, Richard Sanford set out to find the perfect location to grow pinot noir grapes. He dreamed of a climate zone similar to France’s Burgundy region, often poring over maps and statistics in search of a similar locale in his native California. Upon discovering the Transverse mountain ranges of Santa Barbara County, Richard felt his shovel thump the lid of a potential treasure chest. With mountains running east to west, the range allowed the ocean air to rush down the Santa Ynez Valley and keep the climate right where he needed it. Since his discovery, Richard has worked with his wife, Thekla, for more than 40 years on 100 acres of certified organic vineyards, using the literal fruits of their labor to craft delicate versions of pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, and vin gris wines.
Instead of bellying up to a bar, visitors to Avant Tapas & Wine can savor ambrosial tastes?such as Inception chardonnay, Hitching Post pinot noir, and Falcone syrah?at the Wine Wall. Here, a dispensing system measures out exact pours of 52 wines hailing from California?s other wine country?the prolific central coast. Visitors immerse their taste buds in sips of diverse varietals from 20 regional wineries, such as Ground Effect Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo and Hoyt Family Vineyards in Malibu, all produced next door at Terravant Wine Company and enjoyed in Avant?s industrial warehouse confines.
Guests can also pair wines with the celebrated cuisine of chef Robin Reynolds, who harnesses her extensive culinary training and her roots as a Santa Barbara County native to infuse her morsels with local flavors, from hormone-free rib eye to produce picked from nearby organic gardens. While swirling vibrant reds or sweet whites in their glasses, diners take in live music three nights a week or peruse the establishment during tours.
At Ostrich Land, visitors quickly learn that ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand—they'd much rather bury them in a bowl of food that you hold out in front of you. They're also not fond of waiting their turn, and at any given moment, you might have four beaks dipping into your supply. The experience is a far cry from throwing bread at ducks or pigeons. These birds are the world's largest: they can reach up to 9 feet in height and weigh 350 pounds. At top speed, they hit 45 miles per hour on their massive, two-toed feet.
Having been raised around people and trained to eat from outstretched bowls, the park's 50 ostriches and emus welcome spectators from their savannah-like enclosure. They're also celebrities in their own right, with bit roles in the film Sideways as well appearances in a Santa Maria Times video feature and a tongue-in-cheek homage in an episode of The Simpsons. Dispensing the animals' supper is only one way in which guests can get close—a stop inside the gift shop reveals shelves of ready-to-cook ostrich and emu eggs, ostrich feather dusters, and savory ostrich meat shipped in from a separate farm not affiliated with Ostrich Land. Also in stock are vials of emu oil, a substance with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can soothe the skin.